- The big beach issue!
- The content
- Offline capability
- The tech I used...
- The admin system
1. The big beach issue!
I live in Cornwall and enjoy our local beaches nearby. I know these beaches well but there are masses of beaches around the coast of Cornwall that I had never explored. There would be the questions - is there a cafe, are there toilets, parking close to the beach, will it be sheltered, what are the tides? Wouldn’t it be useful to have an app where I could easily find this information?
There are literally hundreds of beaches around the coast of Cornwall. The County has the longest coastline of any county in the UK.
Our beach app will allow you to find beaches based on a range of criteria. For example, find me a beach within x kms of my location with a cafe, parking, lifeguards and toilets. Oh you have a dog, no worries… include beaches that allow dogs.
There’s a strong westerly wind: OK, let’s find beaches that are east facing so your picnic blanket doesn’t blow away.
Let’s explore all the app’s features.
I’ve used geolocation data and Google maps throughout the app. To start a search you can ask the app to search from where you are currently located… or you can plot your desired location on a map. That’s very handy for planning a day out.
Tomorrow, we’re heading east and we’ll be in the area of Torpoint… What beach options have I got for walking my dog?
When the app returns your search results; you can view the results as a list or plotted on a map.
The map is a Google Map and comes with zooming in or out as well as scrolling. So super-helpful when exploring what beaches come up.
From the map view, you can also select a beach and go to its profile. And then back to the map when you’ve finished with the profile.
The list view provides a thumbnail image of the beach… name and distance plus icons that represent options such as loos etc.
Filtering is one aspect that separates the app from other beach guides.
You can quickly filter beaches by:
- By distance
- Whether there is a cafe
- Whether there are toilets
- Whether there is parking
- Does the beach have lifeguards?
- Are dogs allowed?
- The orientation of the beach, i.e. which direction it faces
4. The content
I have thoroughly researched the beaches on the app. And this also contrasts the app with other web guides. In my research, I found that descriptions of beaches… well… they weren’t very descriptive! I wanted to know many more facts about the beach than this [very] average description.
- what kind of sand is there… are we talking golden sand, pebbles or shingle?
- where EXACTLY is the parking? And I mean pinpoint accuracy, so we’ve used What Three Words for this.
- Ditto for toilets… when you’re on a large beach you can walk for miles in search of the public loos.
- Are dogs banned, and if so when do bans start and finish?
- Plus more…
Each beach profile also comes with a gallery option (where more than one image exists). So users can see the beach from different aspects. Where available, I’ve also acquired images of access to the beach and/or car parks (fascinating - but really helpful!).
And whilst on the beach profile, you can also view the weather from the nearest Met Office weather location (often the beach itself) and get the day’s tides.
And finally, you can view the beach on its own Google Map, so you can see it in isolation. For this view, I used the aerial image layer… so you can examine the beach and its surrounding area in detail. On clicking on the Google Maps marker, icons for Google Maps and Directions appear linking to the Google Maps app.
You can mark beaches as your favourites so you can make a shortlist of beaches you’d like to visit. Or remember beaches that you love and visit often where you want to quickly view the tides and weather.
6. Offline capability
I used Google’s firestore for most of the data, with some being stored within a database in the app… and this provides the app with some offline capability. If you have already visited a beach profile, then this data is cached or stored. So, if you find yourself without an internet connection then you can still get the data for your desired beach provided it has been viewed when you did have a connection.
7. The tech I used...
I used Google’s flutter framework in combination with Google’s firestore cloud services.
Firestore will provide the app with super-power abilities to scale with demand. It’s NoSQL database returns searches in a flash. And means that we don’t have the issues of maintaining a backend. It also provides great levels of security to protect our beach data.
I also made use of the following Flutter plugins:
The weather api was provided by https://openweathermap.org/api and tide data by https://www.admiralty.co.uk/digital-services/data-solutions/tidal-api
8. The admin system
Since I was enjoying Flutter so much, I decided to build the web admin in it too! This allows me to easily edit the beach data so that all users have up-to-date info.
We’ll be launching the beach app soon, so you can try it for yourself. Have fun using it and explore Cornwall’s great beaches!
If you have an idea for an app, then we’d love to hear from you.